New Zealand’s national soccer program announced this week that it will guarantee financial parity between its men’s and women’s programs. The women’s team, the Football Ferns, who are ranked 20th among women’s national teams, will now receive the same pay, prize money share, rights for image use, and travel budget as the men’s team, the 133rd-ranked All Whites.
The Football Ferns “are role models for the 30,000 female players throughout our country,” Andy Martin, the chief executive of New Zealand Football, said in a statement. “It is an exciting time for football in this country.”
The decision came by way of a collective bargaining agreement between New Zealand Football and the players’ union, the New Zealand Professional Footballers’ Association. In a statement, the union’s chief executive said that the men’s team was especially passionate about bringing about parity.
According to the New Zealand Herald, New Zealand is the first of international soccer’s more than 200 member countries to come to such an all-inclusive agreement for its national teams. In December, Norway’s men’s and women’s national soccer teams signed an equal-pay agreement. However, New Zealand’s deal goes a step further, guaranteeing that Football Fern players will be able to ride business class on flights longer than six hours like the All Whites.
The air travel agreement will have “a tangible impact on performance,” wrote one sports journalist, especially since New Zealand players often have to trek halfway across the globe for games and practices.
The extent of the pay disparity between New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams prior to the agreement is unclear. Before Norway soccer signed its equal-pay agreement, the women’s team collectively earned less than half of what the men’s team earned, according to the Independent.
In the United States, despite having developed a cult following and consistently being one of the best teams in the world, the women’s soccer team is still fighting to close the gender wage gap. Last year, the women’s team reached a collective bargaining agreement with US soccer that gave them a 30% pay increase, but still fell short of full equity.
The New Zealand agreement is also a recognition that the opportunities afforded to male soccer players in New Zealand and across the world dwarf those of female players. A 2017 report by Sporting Intelligence, an independent sports publication, found that, for each professional women’s soccer player, there are 106 men making a full-time living from the sport.
“Football participation rates for both girls and boys are whopping between the ages of 5 to 14. But that starts to drop away for girls in their mid- to late teenage years, and adulthood,” wrote another sports journalist in The Spinoff.
“For a teenage boy who’s reasonably good at football, there is a huge potential upside to keeping on playing. You might get fame and fortune! Or even just be able to eke out a living as a pro,” he wrote. “For teenage girls, that’s only recently been any sort of possibility.”
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